CAPS GAME NIGHT--GAME 2: Home Opener Brings Out the Red

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, October 03, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

Welcome from the press box, high atop the Verizon Center, as we get set for the home opener between the Washington Capitals and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Caps come off Thursday's season opener, where they handled the Boston Bruins 4-1.  The team looked sharp, gave up only 20 shots, and had their way on the power play.  The Leafs lost their opener Thursday to thier arch-rival Montreal Canadiens, 4-3, with less than 30 seconds remaining in overtime.

Toronto played a rough-and-tumble game against Montreal, and took three fighting majors, one each from Mike Kommisarek, Colton Orr and Jay Rosehill.  Matt Stajan led the way on offense, scoring twice, with Alexei Ponikarovsky picking up the other goal.

The Caps are led, naturally, by the Great 8, Alex Ovechkin.  The two-time Hart Trophy winner did not disappoint in Game 1, netting two goals and helping with another.  But Brooks Laich opened some eyes, scoring two power play goals from inside the crease.  Nicklas Backstrom had three assists, and Alexander Semin set up two goals.

Jose Theodore played well in net, but Semyon Varlamov gets the start tonight in a pre-determined set-up.  Coach Bruce Boudreau will have to balance the play of the two, resisting to always play the hot hand to make sure both players get enough work, unless and until one of them plays head-and-shoulders above the other.



Scratches: Nylander, Sloan, Schultz

WAS: Eric Fehr (shoulders), Tomas Fleischmann (blood clot)
TOR:  Jeff Finger (oblique), Jamie Heward (concussion), Phil Kessel (shoulder), Jamal Meyers (head), Mike Vay Ryn (knee)

Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich each had a pair of goals, and Jose Theodore made 19 saves, as the Washington Capitals knocked off the Boston Bruins 4-1 before a capacity crowd at TD Banknorth Garden.

The Capitals played an almost flawless game against one of their main challengers for supremacy in the Eastern Conference.  They built a 4-0 lead, played terrific on the power play, netting two goals, and was stingy on defense the entire contest.

Washington definitely got into the Bruins heads, as they seemed to be talking to themselves in the game's latter stages, trying to pump each other up.  They were momentarily successful, when Patrice Bergeron tallied on a breakaway after a David Steckel turnover on the Boston blue line.

But that was Boston's lone strike, as Theodore brushed aside the few shots that made it through the defense.

The Capitals best players produced.  Laich had an assist to go with his two goals, Nicklas Backstrom had three helpers, and Alexander Semin had a pair of assists.

The first goal was early in the the first period -- a power play marker by Laich -- set up with nifty cross-ice passing by Ovechkin and Backstrom, who fed Laich right on Tim Thomas' (30 saves) doorstep.  Ovechkin's first of the night came in the second.  Backstrom took control of the puck along the dasher, fed Semin at center ice, and the talented Russian dropped a back pass for Ovie in the slot.

Ovechkin made no mistake.

Laich scooped up a loose puck just as Thomas was about to sit on it for his second goal of the night 16 seconds into the third period, and Ovechkin put a wrist shot past Thomas off a great cross-crease pass from defenseman Tom Poti to close the scoring.

The Caps out shot the Bruins 34-20 for the game, and 12-3 in the third period, as Boston was frustrated in their comeback bid.

Instead of scoring goals, Boston decided to fight in the third period instead, as Shawn Thronton mixed it up in a pretty fair draw with John Erskine.

The Capitals host Toronto, who lost 4-3 in overtime to Montreal tonight, in the home opener Saturday night at 7:00 pm.

17:15 Power Play - Brooks Laich (1), Snap Shot. Assist: Backstrom, Ovechkin

09:31 Alex Ovechkin (1), Snap Shot. Assist: Semin, Backstrom

16.0 Power Play - Brooks Laich (2), Wrist Shot. Assist: Backstrom, Semin
01:56 Alex Ovechkin (2), Wrist Shot. Assist: Poti
07:56 Short - Patrice Bergeron (1), Backhand Shot. Assist: Begin, Stuart

1. A. Ovechkin - WAS (Goals: 2, Assists: 1)
2. B. Laich - WAS (Goals: 2, Assists: 1)
3. N. Backstrom - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 3)

Washington's last regulation victory in Boston was Dec. 2, 2000. The Capitals went 3-0-1 against the Bruins last season.

The Caps were 2-for-4 on the power play.  Boston went 0-for-5.

CAPS GAME NIGHT--GAME 1: Caps Open Season in Boston

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, October 01, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins were the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference last season, and start the 2009-10 campaign facing one another again.  After an off-season that was spend in great anticipation for this very day, the start of the new hockey season, it's finally arrived.

And it has arrived with much fanfare and high expectations.  Never before in the team history has so much attention and press been dedicated to pucks in the off-season in Washington.  It's been non-stop, starting with last year's disappointing playoff ouster by eventual champion Pittsburgh, through the awards season, free agent period, then the start of training camp, and coming to a head at last weekend's first-ever Capitals Convention.

Good crowds showed for the home pre-season games, so much so it reminded of weekend games in the not-so-distant past.

But Washington has arrived as a "hockey town", and it's now time to drop 'em for real and get this show on the road.

These two teams join the Penguins and Philadelphia as the class of the East.  Boston has a very balanced line-up, and was second in the league in goals scored.  They welcome the return of Marco Sturm, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, but will miss their leading goal-scorer, Phil Kessel, who was traded Sept. 18 to Toronto after a contract dispute.

The Bruins return Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara and Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas as well.   They are coached by last year's Jack Adams winner Claude Julien.

"I think we've got to work our way to the top just like we did last year," Julien said. "There's nothing different except the challenge will be bigger, there's more respect toward our team this year."

Washington, of course, starts and ends with Alexander Ovechkin.  The two-time Hart Trophy winner (56-54-110 last season) came into camp with 20 pounds of extra muscle, so he's primed for a long season of bumping and grinding to go along with his dynamic scoring.

He'll get help up from his running mates, Nicklas Backstrom (3rd in assists) and Alexander Semin (1.3 points per game).  The team added reinforcements with Mike Knuble (27-20-47, +5) and Brendan Morrison, who was given a one-year, $1.5 million contract to prove he's healthy as a second-line center.

The Caps are loaded with young, but experienced, defensemen.  They are led by Mike Green, the NHL's leading defensive scorer.  Green finished with 31 goals and 42 assists despite missing 14 games due to injury.

Backstopping the Caps will be Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov.  Theodore had an up-and-down season last year, but did win 30+ games, while Varlamov was spectacular in the playoffs before finally wearing down in the Pittsburgh series.

Here are tonight's lines (courtesy of Captials Insider):



Boudreau did not announce a starting goalie as of this post.

WAS: 2008-09:  GF:  3rd (3.27); GA-19th (2.93);
PP-2nd (50/177, 28.2%); PK-17th (34/184, 81.5%)
BOS:  2008-09:  GF:  2nd (3.29); GA-1st (2.32);
PP-4th (44/157, 28.0%); PK-12th (29/148, 80.4%)

WAS:  Eric Fehr (shoulders), Tomas Fleischmann (blood clot)
BOS:  David Krejci (hip)

The team lost RW Chris Bourque to Pittsburgh off of waivers.  They recalled Boyd Kane from AHL Hershey to replace him on the roster.

Michael Nylander, who did not play all pre-season, will be a healthy scratch, as will Tyler Sloan and Jeff Schultz.

Bourque Placed on Waivers

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, September 29, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

According to the Washington Times, F Chris Bourque was placed on waivers today at noon, with the expressed purpose of having a roster spot open to possibly claim another waived player.

GM George McPhee reportedly said that if there was no one on the waiver wire the team liked more than Bouque -- and he cleared wiavers -- he would remain with the team and open the season with him on the roster.

If Bourque is claimed, the Caps will lose him for nothing.

Bourque's long-term status with the organization is questionable anyway, since the Caps will have Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleischmann reutning from injury fairly soon.

Stay tuned as the drama unfolds.

The Washington Capitals raced out to a 4-0 lead and held on in the third period for a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers in the final pre-season game for both teams.  The Caps open Thursday in Boston against the Bruins.

Brooks Laich had a goal and an assist for the Capitals as they built a 4-0 lead after two periods. Washington also got goals from Alexander Semin, Chris Bourke and Mike Knuble. Semyon Varlamov stopped 28 shots.

Artem Anisimov, Evgeny Grachev and Donald Brashear scored for the Rangers in the third.  New York out shot the Caps 31-28, including a 20-4 advantage in the third.


Capitals Insider reports this morning that forwards Keith Aucoin, Alexandre Giroux, and Brandon Sugden and defenseman Karl Alzner did not practice with the team, leading to speculation that they are four of the five players that need to be removed from the roster prior to 3 pm Wednesday, the deadline for final opening day roster cuts.

Chris Bourque, Quintin Laing and Tyler Sloan all skated with the team today at practice.

The fifth cut could very well be Michael Nylander, potentially being traded or transferred to an overseas team, or Michael Neuvirth, who "tweaked" an undisclosed body part Saturday morning at practice and was unavailable for the Sunday game.

The first Capitals Convention was held Saturday at the Gaylord National Convention Center.  The Caps took over parts of two floors and offered panel discussions, autographs and pictures with current and former players, plenty of merchandise for sale, and interactive games for kids, both big and little.

Overall, the convention was a huge success.  With any first-time endeavor, there were a couple of things that could have been better or run a little smoother, but Ted's already on it

Here are a few pics.  We'll have a more elaborate slideshow available soon.